12-year-old Gardnerville boy takes flying lessons
For many established pilots, a career in aviation is concieved from the very first childhood fantasy of flight. For a Gardnerville boy, the time between fantasy and reality is short.
At 12, Jeff Lambin is the youngest student of Flying Start Aero flight instruction, based at the Minden-Tahoe Airport. With his first lesson in January, Jeff embarked on the 40-hour minimum flight requirement necessary for his pilot’s license.
“I don’t remember when I first knew I wanted to fly. I’ve been interested in flying for a really long time. I used to make model planes,” Jeff said.
Though he won’t be able to obtain his license until age 17, Jeff is racking up his hours next to flight instructor John Brown in a red and white Piper Cherokee 180 plane.
Brown gives potential students a healthy dose of reality.
“I have to be discriminating about who I let up there. If you’re not ready, I’ll tell you,” said Brown. “Cases like Jeff’s are rare. He has a maturity and a seriousness about flying that many people far older than him don’t have.”
Jeff’s flight plans are scribbled with copious notes, a sure sign that his desire to fly goes beyond a child’s imagination.
“It’s not like getting your driver’s license. There is a lot of work involved. It is not easy,” Brown said.
Aside from the difficulty, training can be expensive. The dropout rate in aviation training is 80 percent nationally. Flying Start Aero’s is slightly lower, at 60 percent.
Brown stressed that as a rule, he doesn’t encourage trainees as young as Jeff to try their hands at flying.
“General aviation came under heat after the Jessica Dubroff incident. People questioned how safe our training is, as well as the competency of pilots that young,” he said
Jessica, a 7-year-old, was attempting to fly from the West to the East Coast in 1996 when a storm brought down the plane, killing three people, including the young pilot.
“We’re still recovering from the setback that caused,” Brown said.
Jeff’s desire to fly appears to run in the family.
“I have an aunt and grandpa that are both into flying,” he said.
Lambin’s siblings, Rachael, 10, and John-Henry, 7, have also been up in the plane, tagging along on Jeff’s lessons.
“John is really great with all of the kids. They all wear headsets and he teaches them about the plane, too,” said Debbie Lambin, Jeff’s mother. “There’s a fear for a parent to have your kids up that high, especially all three at one time, but John is very conscientious of the weather, and wouldn’t put them in danger.”
This week, Jeff is attending Aviation Challenge, a week-long flight camp complete with simulators, fighter programs and outdoor team events such as a ropes course and “river crossing.”
He won first place in an Aviation Challenge mission-writing contest for a simulator program, complete with an enemy stronghold, tanks and a refueling. His win resulted in a camp scholarship.
Like many kids his age, video games are a staple of Jeff’s recreation. He plays “Longbow,” a helicopter battle game, and also has a flight simulator program for his computer.
Although Jeff was mildly airsick at the end of his last lesson due to turbulence, he shows no signs of quitting.
“I haven’t really thought about what I’ll do in the future. Right now, I want to do it for fun,” he said.
For more information about Flying Start Aero, call 783-8359 or visit http://www.flyingstartaero.com.